# Thursday, January 7, 2010
                 
Travelers in Canada and the United States are experiencing delays in North American airports due to the recent incident aboard a Northwest Airlines flight. The flight had originated from Amsterdam and was scheduled to land in Detroit. A Nigerian man attempted to ignite an incendiary device on the flight Christmas Day, but succeeded only in starting a small fire. An Al Queda group in Yemen is claiming responsibility for the failed attack.

The Canadian government has announced that it has ordered 44 full-body scanners. Passengers departing from major Canadian airports and flying to the United States will then have a choice of either being scanned or submitting to a physical ‘pat down’ by an airport guard. The first dozen of the full-body scanners are due to be delivered by the end of next week and be operational by March. Airports in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax and possibly Gander are the first Canadian cities to receive the scanners. Other unspecified locations will receive scanners in the later months of 2010. Until the scanners are operational the Minister of State for Transport is recommending that all passengers traveling to the United States through Canada be automatically subjected to the secondary screening program. This would entail passengers being asked to submit to a physical pat-down or a full-body scan in addition to the already existing security measures.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority has indicated that it will follow the recommendations of the federal privacy commissioner:
  • That the body scanners will be used only when a passenger fails a metal detector and then refuses a physical pat-down;
  • That the screening officers must be in a different room than the passenger and must not wear/have any identifying information.
The scan requires the passenger to pass through a stand-up probe that looks similar to a phone booth and takes approximately one minute. It works by projecting low level millimeter wave radio frequency energy over and around the passenger’s body. It is capable of peering beneath clothing to project a graphic three dimensional image of the person onto a computer screen in a remote room. There the security officer can detect weapons or explosive devices hidden beneath the clothing. The scan has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom as well as the Netherlands. In Canada the scan will not be used on anyone under the age of 18, due to the fears that the resulting images could possibly amount to child pornography.

For Canadians traveling to the United States, be advised that the new security measures will make wait times longer; allow for plenty of time to pass through Customs as well as the security checks. It is also advisable to call ahead and ask what exactly will the rules are regarding carry-on luggage and other items, i.e. laptop computers, cell phones.

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